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Sanctuary mayors plead for 11th-hour help from Obama

There are more than 300 sanctuary cities and counties in the U.S. (Source: Center for Immigration Studies)

President-elect Donald Trump has made no secret of his disdain for illegal aliens – especially those who commit crimes – and the sanctuary cities that protect them.

Victor Reyes was deported four times and when he entered illegally the fifth time took up residence in Houston, a sanctuary city, where he shot and killed Spencer Golvach while Golvatch, a 25-year-old musician, was sitting in his car at a stoplight on Jan. 31, 2015.

By most estimates, there are at least 800,000 criminal non-citizens moving about freely in the United States and at least that many more sitting in jails. Most are harbored in the nation’s approximately 325 sanctuary cities.

Now the mayors of 30 sanctuary cities affiliated with the Cities for Action coalition have sent an open letter to President Obama pleading for him to grant protection from deportation to illegal aliens before he leaves office. The letter specifically asks for a two-year extension of the DACA program to some 740,000 participants, who are mostly young adults who came here illegally with their parents and are either enrolled in classes or working.

Francisco Chavez was released by a sanctuary county and then allegedly abused a 2-year-old girl.

The letter [see full text at end of article] said:

“We call upon your administration to accept early renewal applications for current DACA holders to extend temporary protections for them. In addition, we urge USCIS to commit to speedy processing of initial and renewal applications.”

The letter made a second appeal to the president:

“Second, we urge you to extend protections for immigrants who cannot return safely to their countries of origin because of extraordinary conditions, including natural disasters or armed conflict.”

The mayors also requested that President Obama protect the personal information of DACA participants, ostensibly to prevent Trump from using it if he decides to follow through on his deportation plans.

A sanctuary city is a designation that welcomes illegal immigrants, making it easier for them to get government services or avoid federal immigration agents.

These “safe havens” have come under fire since Kathryn Steinle was shot and killed in San Francisco by an illegal immigrant who had been deported five times. Other illegals sheltered from deportation by sanctuary cities have killed, raped and molested children.

The White House has not commented on whether or not Obama will use his final days in office to issue protection for illegal immigrants.

Rahm Emanuel

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio signed the letter along with mayors in Baltimore, Austin, Denver, Knoxville, Philadelphia, Seattle, Syracuse and other cities. They have all passed resolutions to keep their “sanctuary city” status.

Chicago had more than 50 shot and 12 killed over the weekend, bringing to a close one of its bloodiest years ever. The city finished out the year with 762 homicides, the highest number in nearly two decades. Despite Chicago’s “sanctuary” status, it’s possible one might be safer seeking sanctuary in Aleppo or Baghdad.

More cities scrambling to become sanctuaries

Locally elected officials in dozens of cities are scrambling to add their cities to the “sanctuary city” list. They believe strength in numbers will work against the Trump administration’s immigration enforcement.

A robocall regarding Iowa City, Iowa’s, discussion on whether to become a sanctuary city sent a flood of calls into the city clerk’s office last week.

Simon Andrew, the assistant to the city manager, said the calls started Wednesday afternoon with people reporting that an automated message had told them the City Council planned to vote on a sanctuary city status at its meeting on Jan. 3.

A recording of the call from Priorities for Iowa, however, shows the call only notifies residents of the discussion and does not mention a vote.

Mayor Jim Throgmorton told KCCI in Des Moines the council plans to discuss a sanctuary-city status Tuesday night. Throgmorton said the discussion had been prompted by an influx of requests from citizens since the November election for Iowa City to become a sanctuary city.

Officials in Howard County, Maryland, comprised of mostly Democrats, say they want to ban county officials from inquiring about an individuals’ immigration status. The officials would also be barred from cooperating with federal immigration officials, according to the Baltimore Sun.

“The recent national political climate, increased incidents of hate speech and violence, and unfortunate statements made by our nation’s president-elect, has caused many in the Howard County community to fear for their personal safety and the loss of civil liberties,” Howard County City Council member Calvin Ball said.

Jessica Vaughan of the Center for Immigration Studies told the Baltimore Sun she didn’t understand the purpose of the sanctuary city classification for Howard County, as it’s largely based in a drummed-up fear about federal immigration officials.

“I’m at a loss to see how this would affect the real life practices of Howard County officials or force them to do anything they’re already doing,” said Vaughan. “This idea that immigration officers are suddenly going to be raiding elementary schools and so county officials need to enact these policies to protect people from this activity is just silly. It doesn’t happen that way and it never will. This is a solution in search of a problem.”

Even very small cities, such as Langley, Washington, on Whidbey Island, are considering becoming sanctuaries for illegals.

“It’s an important issue to us and we’re considering it seriously and moving forward deliberately,” Callison told the South Whidbey Record. He said the issue could be voted on at the Jan. 17 council meeting.

Trump’s ‘switch’ to turn off sanctuaries

Regardless of which side of the sanctuary issue one stands, no one is denying that a showdown is looming between the new president and sanctuary mayors.

Rep. John Culberson, R-Texas, says he has installed a policy “switch” within the Department of Justice that is ready to go on the first day of the Trump presidency, as WND reported.

All Trump has to do is flip the switch to activate a cut on all federal funds flowing into police and sheriffs’ departments nationwide that aren’t cooperating with federal immigration officers.

Some cities have promised to sue the federal government, but that won’t help, Culberson said in an interview with Shannon Bream of Fox News.

“Suing will not do them any good. This is their decision. This is the law now, as a result of what I’ve done on July 7. If you want federal money, follow federal law,” he told Bream. “You must hand over every criminal illegal alien in your prisons to fed authorities to be deported immediately or you lose all your money.”

Read full letter from the 30 sanctuary cities below:

Dear President Obama:

As mayors and county executives in the Cities for Action coalition, we write to thank you for your leadership on behalf of immigrant families and urge you to take action to ensure continued support for vulnerable immigrants in our communities before you leave office.

Cities for Action is a national coalition of over 100 mayors and county executives that advocates for inclusive local policies and national immigration reform. As local government leaders throughout the country, we know that immigrants make our communities stronger economically, culturally, and socially. For this reason, we have enthusiastically embraced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, expressed repeated support for and defense of your 2014 executive actions on immigration, and worked closely with your administration to promote citizenship and the economic, social, and civic integration of immigrants.

On behalf of millions of our immigrant residents and their families, we thank you for the steps your administration has taken to support vulnerable immigrant populations, from bright young people who may only know life in this country, to immigrants who cannot return to their home countries because of conflict or natural disaster, as well as those who look to the U.S. to lead on human rights and non-discrimination. These actions reflect the ideals of inclusion and refuge that our country is founded on.

We also thank you for listening to concerns from local leaders, among other voices, and taking steps this week to end the failed National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) program. This “special registration” program was discriminatory and created great fear and turmoil within our communities, particularly among Muslim immigrants, while not providing any increase in security. A revival of the program would only serve to heighten tensions and increase the risk of bias-based crimes at a time when hate speech and hate crimes are on the rise. For these reasons, we commend your Administration for this move.

We urge that you continue your support for immigrant communities in the last few weeks of your presidency. Specifically, we suggest that your administration (1) continue support for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, and (2) continue support for immigrants who have Temporary Protected Status (TPS).
First, we encourage you to undertake steps to support the over 740,000 DACA recipients in the U.S. DACA has tremendously benefitted our communities by helping our residents thrive and contribute in myriad ways. For this reason, we are committed to advocating for the continuation of DACA in the next administration and for legislative relief for Dreamers in Congress. In the meantime, we call upon your administration to accept early renewal applications for current DACA holders to extend temporary protections for them. In addition, we urge USCIS to commit to speedy processing of initial and renewal applications and urge your administration to implement additional privacy protections for DACA holders to reassure recipients that they will not be punished as a result of coming out of the shadows.

Second, we urge you to extend protections for immigrants who cannot return safely to their countries of origin because of extraordinary conditions, including natural disasters or armed conflict. Cities for Action has applauded the steps that your administration has taken to grant temporary relief to these individuals. We now ask that your administration continues this urgent form of humanitarian protection by reviewing the current TPS designations and extending such designations or making re-designations or new designations as appropriate before the end of your term. In particular, we urge your administration to take steps to protect immigrants from countries that recently experienced extraordinary conditions that have made return unsafe, including Haiti and Ecuador. We also ask that USCIS commit to swift processing for TPS applications and re-registrations.

Thank you again for the many positive actions you have undertaken as President on behalf of immigrants in our communities, and we hope that you will consider these recommendations.


Ed Pawlowski, Mayor of Allentown, PA
Steve Adler, Mayor of Austin, TX
Catherine Pugh, Mayor of Baltimore, MD
William Bell, Mayor of Birmingham, AL
Marty Walsh, Mayor of Boston, MA
Lydia Lavelle, Mayor of Carrboro, NC
Albert Robles, Mayor of Carson, CA
Pam Hemminger, Mayor of Chapel Hill, NC
Rahm Emanuel, Mayor of Chicago, IL
Michael Hancock, Mayor of Denver, CO
Roy D. Buol, Mayor of Dubuque, IA
Svante Myrick, Mayor of Ithaca, NY
Madeline Rogero, Mayor of Knoxville, TN
Eric Garcetti, Mayor of Los Angeles, CA
Paul Soglin, Mayor of Madison, WI
Manuel Cantu, Mayor of McFarland, CA
Ike Leggett, Executive of Montgomery County, MD
Yxstian Gutierrez, Mayor of Moreno Valley, CA
Toni Harp, Mayor of New Haven, CT
Noam Bramson, Mayor of New Rochelle, NY
Bill de Blasio, Mayor of New York City, NY
Jim Kenney, Mayor of Philadelphia, PA
Liz Lempert, Mayor of Princeton, NJ
Jorge Elorza, Mayor of Providence, RI
John Dickert, Mayor of Racine, WI
Tom Butt, Mayor of Richmond, CA
Kevin Johnson, Mayor of Sacramento, CA
Ed Lee, Mayor of San Francisco, CA
Ed Murray, Mayor of Seattle, WA
Francis Slay, Mayor of St. Louis, MO
Stephanie Miner, Mayor of Syracuse, NY